Herbert Ivan Babbage was born in 1875 in Adelaide, Australia. At the age of five Babbage and his family relocated to Wanganui, New Zealand. As a young boy, he joined his mother on sketching and painting excursion. Babbage went on to receive tutoring at the Wanganui Technical School under D.E Hutton (1899 – 1904).
Known primarily as an Impressionist, Babbage worked in watercolours and oils depicting landscapes and waterside scenes. During the late 1890’s he depicted local landscape of the Whanganui region including Mt Ruapehu and a sunrise at Mt Taranaki.
In 1902, Babbage left Whanganui to attend the London School of Art. From London he went on to study at the Julian Academy in Paris. In 1904 he travelled through Europe painting topographical and waterside subjects in oils and watercolour.
Babbage eventually settled in St Ives where he worked from his Porthmeor Square studio. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in 1908.
In 1909 he returned to New Zealand to hold an exhibition of over 200 of his works in Whanganui. He returned to St Ives and in 1913 he exhibited Ebbing Tide and two others, one Cornish scene and one Dutch, at St Ives. He continued to exhibit locally throughout 1914. With the outbreak of the First World War, Babbage enlisted with the Home Guard and was one of the four St Ives artists to lose their lives in WWI, dying aged 41 in Cardiff during service as a result of exposure.
Babbage’s work can be found in private and public collections in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, the Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui and the Hocken Gallery, Dunedin, all hold collections of his work.